Sustainable alternative to plastic made from fish waste wins James Dyson UK award

A home compostable material, comprised of waste material from the fishing industry and sustainable algae, has won the James Dyson UK award for its design as a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic films.

The material, known as MarinaTex, is the invention of Lucy Hughes, 23, a recent graduate in product design from the University of Sussex.

MarinaTex is made from waste fish and can be used instead of plastic film. It is translucent and stronger than LDPE at the same thickness, making it the ideal home-compostable alternative to plastic packaging windows including: bakery bags & sandwich packs. It can break down in a soil environment in four to six weeks and be disposed of through home food waste collections.

Lucy Hughes said: “After hearing statistics such as “by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight,” solving this problem became a priority. In particular, badly used plastic and single-use plastic applications. Plastic is an amazing material, however we have become too plastic happy and design only for the use of the product, which can sometimes be a fraction of the products overall lifespan.

“However, my journey did not start with the plastic problem. It began by looking into the fishing industry. 50 million tonnes of waste is produced annually by the global industry. I believed that there is value in waste and resources can be renewable.”

To the touch, MarinaTex feels a lot like plastic, but the similarities end there. In fact, it is stronger, safer and much more sustainable. The material is relatively low tech and does not require much energy to produce. The whole production process uses temperatures below 100 degrees. As the material uses waste from the fishing industry, this helps to close the loop for a more circular design.

After researching the waste streams, the product designer found that the fish skins and scales had the most potential locked up in them due to their flexibility and strength enabling proteins. By utilising open source resources, she began experimenting with different organic binders from the sea including chitosan (from crustaceans) and agar (from red algae). It took over 100 different experiments to refine the material and process.

Lucy Hughes won £2,000 for her invention at the James Dyson UK awards. MarinaTex will now be entered in the international category for the final leg of the award in November, which will give the overall worldwide winner a further £30,000 in prize money, plus £5,000 for the winner’s university department.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at

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